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OPINION: ‘They are just barking up the same tree with populist political policies’

Saturday 25 June 2022 | Written by Te Tuhi Kelly | Published in Opinion


OPINION: ‘They are just barking up the same tree with populist political policies’
Te Tuhi Kelly. PHOTO: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/191011111

Well, I am enjoying our visit to Aitutaki and I have also been talking up a storm with other opposition party supporters who are interested in what I have to say.

I have been asked, what are my thoughts on law and order, corruption' and health, and I spoke an abridged version of this to them and sat down this morning to put pen to paper, compose myself, and think about it, and anyway here's my thoughts.

After giving it much thought (about 5 minutes or so) I thought, when a party focuses on these three, they are just barking up the same tree with populist political policies rolled out year after year.  Disingenuous comes to mind with no real incentive to ensure that these policies actually work, or have any proper relevance or importance other than to get a party into the good books and on to the gravy train.

We all know that we have challenges relating to those three items and hence law and order are not about law and order. We don’t need more laws unless it is to regulate for proper conduct. Instead, if you talk to ordinary iti-tangata in the street or in informal settings you get the same old arguments. Bro did you hear about………? So it is quite easy to see that many people when they hear those words invariably say it is about faith in our police and faith in legal jurisprudence. More importantly faith that the laws will be applied fairly and without prejudice as to whether you are an immigrant, a foreign worker, labourer, a chief executive, a business owner or an MP, or heaven forbid a PM.

We have a perception of differing treatment for different people depending on their status in our communities, and the law treated as of no consequence. Those whom we trust to prosecute the law must do so. How hard is that? We need those who make the law, those who pass the law and those who apply the law, to do it in a manner that gives us, the people faith that those laws do not discriminate, that those laws are in our best interest (some have been passed with hidden agendas, (i.e. Infrastructure Act) and that those laws follow international conventions and agreements that we have signed and sworn to uphold.

We do not need select committees to be formed to give government advice unless it is about setting up a process to implement. We do not need select committees to be formed from sitting MPs who cannot be trusted because they have another biased agenda counter to what we as a nation have signed up to. We just need to implement our agreements. The Crimes Act and gender bias is a point in question. Endless select committee meetings and hand wringing, and making sure that they don’t get the religious nutters offside with their recommendation to cabinet.

As for corruption, how many times since 1965 has this been a selling point for endless party-political statements. All parties have and are involved in trying to benefit from this populist statement, pre the dissolution of parliament with an impending general election. The lead up to the current general election, months ago, has seen all parties rushing out to give so called thankyou and Xmas gifts disguised as we love you, we want to thank you, a thinly veiled piece of brinkmanship to disguise the fact that it is nothing of the sort.

The formation of quango agencies to oversee corruption will be a drain on financial and people resources, and a message of I told you so by those who do not trust the hand that feeds the needy, the seedy and the greedy. If it is not followed up with an outcome based on law, if it can be influenced or usurped by politicians and vested interests in wanting an alternative outcome, then it will be seen as a failure (again).

Health is the cornerstone of well-being, and a healthy, vibrant, and happy populace that has somehow lost its way. NCD’s, obesity, ill-health and poor quality of life is what we are and what we have become. We are what we eat and what we import and in huge quantities. A health system creaking at the seams as we grapple with increasingly dated equipment, understaffing and poor health staff role models pushing a nutrition message and meanwhile they are wheezing from being obese themselves. Way to send a positive message. A system that has a focus on modern health rather than embracing proven alternative cultural therapies.

We have poor mental health facilities and aged care facilities, not enough rehab resources, and a need to reduce health inequities, waiting lists, waiting times and poor client service.

Our facilities are increasingly no longer fit for purpose and as we continue to pour money into upgrades, this is just a covering for what ails our system. We are operating on a sow’s ear to create a silk purse. In an ideal world we would have a medical health campus which caters for the needs of our people from the day they are conceived, born and navigate the human cycle of life to death. This would double as a medical facility offering general, medical, surgical, specialist and cultural health and well-being therapies and even to having a nurse and MD training facility all in a one stop shop with world renown technology and therapies.

We won’t, it costs huge finances and is a pipe dream. It is however an alternative view which no one that I know from the other Party's has even contemplated. But a pipe- dream all the same. Instead, we are budgeting for failure, covering a gaping wound with plasters and throwing more money into an ever-widening hole of health despair focusing on the same issues without respite and that have been discussed endless times to no avail with previous governments.

We need to sit down and discuss healthy strategies, no matter how outlandish. We need to prepare a proper strategy based on house-to-house surveys, current Cook Islands data and targeted at our actual need and ability to deliver. To develop health plans that are pertinent to us given our isolation and distance from main centres and then formulate a practicable plan to adopt, implement and roll out.